Bone marrow transplants have been offered by the Veterans Healthcare Administration since 1982, twenty years after the founding of the VA National Transplant Program in 1962, which connected veterans to VA healthcare facilities to conduct “important, life-saving procedures.” Of the thirteen total VA healthcare facilities scattered across the United States that are authorized to perform transplants, only 3 offer bone marrow transplants, including Nashville, TN, San Antonio, TX, and Seattle, WA.
VHA may insist that these limited services are required to ensure highly centralized, highly qualified expertise, but veterans have found a number of issues related to seeking solid organ or bone marrow transplant, and more often than not, the issues stem from the bureaucracy inherent to the system.
“Distance, Delays, and Denial” Plague Veterans in Need
Local news stations KARE 11 in Minneapolis, WXIA in Atlanta, and KVUE in Austin unveiled a 2016 report on widespread problems with VHA’s organ transplant program. It starts with the lengthy travel, forcing some veterans to travel hundreds, even thousands, of miles to the authorized VA transplant center for testing or treatment. It may exacerbate their situations to begin with, on top of taking them far away from their families and support networks at home. Research also showed that the farther a patient lived from a treatment center, the less likely it was for the patient to get on the waiting list or receive the transplant.
The VA is also notoriously stringent on recommending solid organ transplant, and may suggest other treatment methods first, despite a transplant being the option that works in the end. This is despite private treatment centers often qualifying patients for transplants when the VA does not.
The Veterans’ Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, signed into law in 2014, and commonly referred to as “Veterans’ Choice”, was meant to address veterans’ complaints by allowing them to seek treatment at non-VA facilities closer to their homes. However, the legislation was riddled with inconsistencies that allowed the VA to deny benefits, like in the case of Charles Nelson of Texas, an Army veteran whose kidney transplant was denied coverage because Nelson’s son, who was providing the organ, was not a veteran.
Now, the VA MISSION Act of 2018 has taken the place of Veterans’ Choice and is meant to address the problems that weren’t covered the first time around. Even with new rules in place, the rollout may bring to light additional issues, and there is no guarantee that veterans still won’t be denied compensation or proper treatment when they ask for it.
The VA MISSION Act states four main objectives:
- Strengthens VA’s ability to recruit and retain clinicians.
- Authorizes “Anywhere to Anywhere” telehealth across state lines.
- Empowers Veterans with increased access to community care.
- Establishes a new urgent care benefit that eligible Veterans can access through VA’s network of urgent care providers in the community.
How Are Bone Marrow Transplants Rated Anyway?
For any condition included in the Federal Register for which bone marrow transplant is a viable — and required — treatment method, the condition is rated at 100 starting on the date of your hospital admission, and continuing on for six months from your discharge date. At that point you must attend a mandatory VA examination to evaluate your current health and submit to a potential change to your rating.
The VA routinely fails to properly evaluate Veterans’ service-connected conditions requiring bone marrow transplants. It’s critical you have a knowledgeable attorney review your file to ensure the VA assigned the proper evaluation. Also, there’s likely a host of additional medical conditions attributable to your transplant that you are eligible to receive additional compensation for. However, action may be required by the Veteran to initiate such considerations.
Assistance with Claims
Only the most severe cases of your condition warrant a bone marrow transplant, and if your condition reaches that stage, it’s critical for you to get the treatment and compensation you deserve. If you believe you have been treated unfairly, need assistance with a claim, or have been denied benefits for a condition that necessitates a bone marrow transplant, don’t hesitate to call us at 844-VET-LAWS. We will fight for you to get the prompt treatment and compensation you need to begin feeling better.